In the light of recent publicity about the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, I thought that your readers might be interested in hearing from a volunteer on how I feel about going into the facility several times a month and mentoring a young man who is a resident there (“Blip or trend? Violence spikes at South Portland youth detention center,” March 23).
First of all, after 13 years as a volunteer, I am very proud that Long Creek is one of the premier youth corrections facilities in the nation – an amazing change from the “bad old days,” when the philosophy appeared to me to be one of punishment, rather than rehabilitation.
Now, in my opinion, most of the youngsters feel strongly that the administration and staff are strongly committed to helping them rebuild their lives and overcome their personal problems and the bad choices that they have made thus far.
Personally, I am proud to be associated in a small way with this fine institution, with its superb superintendent, Jeff Merrill, and with the wonderfully caring staff with whom I am privileged to work as a volunteer.
I know that they are working very hard to analyze the incidents of violence to which you referred in recent weeks, and I have confidence that they are improving daily the security situation.
I feel safe when I am in the facility. And I have a great deal of respect for how these professionals deal with the difficulty that is inherent in managing a correctional facility that is simultaneously a jail, a school and – yes – a temporary home for some of the most disadvantaged kids in Maine.
James Willey Jr.
mentor and president, Friends of Long Creek Youth Development Center